Double domes could replace burned facility in Edina

Edina is evaluating a Braemar Park site for golf and other sports facilities.

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What caused the Golf Dome to burn in February is still being investigated.

Photo: Marisa Wojcik, Star Tribune

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Edina, which lost the Braemar Golf Dome to fire in February, is considering building two domes near the site in Braemar Park.

The City Council last week informally OK'd an engineering and cost evaluation of building a golf dome and a sports dome in an area south and west of the old dome's location in the park.

For more than 10 years, Edina's youth sports enthusiasts have pushed the city for a sports dome that would allow off-season soccer, baseball, lacrosse and other activity regardless of the weather. Now, the city appears to be serious about building such a facility.

"It sure seems to have some momentum," said John Keprios, director of parks and recreation. "Youth athletic groups have really stepped up to the plate.

"We have tried so many times to get this done and it's tough, it's expensive. It comes down to how valuable it is for the community."

The city expects to receive more than $1 million in insurance for the Golf Dome, which burned and collapsed on Feb. 10. The cause is still being investigated, Keprios said, but it appears the fire began somewhere on the artificial turf surface. The fire eventually burned all of the field and seared a hole in the fabric dome, sending flames up a hillside.

Wind and the force of the fire pulled at the walls of the dome's wood entrance building, and that building, too, is probably a total loss, Keprios said.

Almost as soon as it fell, fans of the Golf Dome began calling to ask when it would be replaced. Now, the city sees a chance to create a dome complex, perhaps joined by a clubhouse that would provide an entry area, a charge desk and bathrooms.

"We could have some economies of scale," Keprios said. "It would save energy and management costs."

If the city goes ahead with the project -- something that won't be known for months -- the Golf Dome would likely remain inflated year-round while a sports dome would be up only from about Oct. 1 to the end of April. That dome could then be removed, and its artificial turf field used for summer sports.

The sports dome probably would also have a track ringing the rectangular field that would be open to residents who are willing to pay a cover charge.

Council members agreed to proceed with the site evaluation after studying how much commitment there was among user groups to rent time at a sports dome. Keprios said it appears that most of the sports dome's operating costs would be paid by rent, which at most area domes is upwards of $300 an hour.

Athletic groups may be asked to sign a contract that would obligate them to use a dome for a certain number of hours each year. If they can't use all the hours themselves, they would be able to "sublet" hours to other groups.

The city will have to figure out how to pay for any sports dome. Keprios said Edina won't know how much its project would cost until an evaluation of the Braemar site is complete.

A steel building used for storage of public works equipment sits on the site now, but the building can be moved. Keprios said there was once a gun range on the land. Tests will be needed to see whether there are contaminated soils in the area. If there is pollution, that would increase costs.

Keprios said he hopes the site evaluation can be done in six to eight weeks. If the council is able to make a decision this summer, the new domes could be built sometime in the fall.

Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380 Twitter: @smetan

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